San Blas is an archipelago off the Panama coast. There are about 400 islands in the group and only about 40 are inhabited. These islands are relatively isolated and you won't find any large hotel developments here. In addition, you'll need to fly to the islands in a light airplane or get there by boat since they're not on any of the major transport routes.
The islands make for the perfect beach getaway if you prefer a quiet, laid-back castaway experience. Accommodation is generally quite basic and there isn't much to do other than laze in a hammock. Some of the islands have coral reefs where the snorkeling is good and you can also go sailing in the region.
The archipelago is in Panama's Kuna Yala area. This territory belongs to the indigenous people known as the Kuna, who live in island villages or on the mainland. Kuna women dress in traditional attire which is beautifully colorful. The people also have an interesting culture and on a tour of Kuna communities, you'll learn more about how they view the world. A Kuna family may even welcome you into their home.
When you visit San Blas, it's important to respect the Kuna people and to travel responsibly. For example, show an interest in the cultural traditions and dress modestly as a sign of respect. Always ask permission before you photograph people and be prepared for the fact that they may charge a small fee for photographs.
The warm, tropical weather means that you should pack for sunny days and balmy nights. A light sweater may come in useful especially if you visit during rainy season but it's hardly ever cold. Even during the rainy months you'll usually experience sunny and warm beach weather in the mornings and cooling afternoon showers later on. An umbrella or a raincoat can be useful.
The islands' isolation means that transporting goods here is difficult. Items like toiletries, sunscreen and mosquito repellent can be very expensive, so bring your own supply. Also bring plenty of US dollars in cash, since this is the currency used in Panama and you may not always find an ATM.
Several travel operators in Panama offer San Blas tours and make it easier way to experience the archipelago. Tour operators usually arrange your accommodation and transport for you and a good operator will know how to offer you a great experience while being culturally sensitive. Some will even take you all the way to Colombia, so if you want to head south, you won't have to traverse the dangerous Darien Gap.
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